Proposal preparation, commercialization plan and evaluation

Preparing your proposal

This section covers how to:

  1. Find topics
  2. Research existing awards
  3. View open solicitations
  4. Register in the required databases

How to find the topics of focus for this year’s awards

Every year each agency releases a set of topics for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs – these are the areas that are most interesting to the agency that year. You will want to think of the agency as your customer and understand what they are trying to solve, and then decide whether you want to go after any of the open grants or contracts.

Visit and you can browse through the current topics, or select funding topics for the future or past (closed). Use the search feature to see if there are topics in your area of technology.

Researching past awards to help you prepare

It’s helpful to find previous awards that have been funded and use those as a reference. You can look at how many awards have been funded in previous years in your area to determine how competitive or crowded the space is. Before you start writing a grant, it’s always very helpful to look at examples of successful grant applications to determine whether you think you qualify or have a competitive edge.

Visit and use the keyword search or the “Reports” menu to find related awards.

Solicitation calendar

Solicitations from most agencies are released on a regular annual schedule. Visit for a calendar of topic releases and solicitation opening dates. This will help you plan out your timeline.

Contact information for agency program managers

Visit for the contact information for the program manager or point of contact for each funding agency.

Required database registrations

Registering in the proper databases is an important first step because some of these registrations will take weeks and could cause you to miss a deadline for your application. Once you’ve committed to a funding agency, phase or application type and you know your direction, start your registration with the databases first.

The following databases are required for NASA, HHS, NSF and DOD SBIRs and STTRs.

  • SAM
  • Company Registry (

Check your solicitation for additional required database registrations and submit them early!

Commercialization plan

Commercialization is a process that involves bringing products or services to market for the delivery/sale to commercial business or public entities, such as the federal government.

The commercialization sections vary based on the phase of SBIR/STTR and the agency. The following information gives a general overview of what you should expect based on the phase and some of the agencies.

Phase I vs Phase II SBIR/STTR Commercialization Plan components

Phase I Commercialization Plan components:

  1. Elevator pitch/introduction
  2. Commercial opportunity
  3. The innovation
  4. The company/team

Phase II Commercialization Plan components:

  1. Value of the SBIR/STTR project, expected outcomes, and impacts
  2. Company overview
  3. Market, customer, and competition analysis
  4. Intellectual property (IP) protection
  5. Finance plan
  6. Production and marketing plan
  7. Revenue stream

Agency-specific requirements for commercialization sections of proposals

The commercialization section of each agency’s application for SBIR and STTR funding is different in name and in requirements. Here are some examples of the variations.

Examples of agencies’ variations in name and requirements for commercialization sections of proposals
Agency Name for commercialization section of proposal Suggested length
DOD Commercialization Strategy 1 page
DOE Commercialization Plan 2 pages
HHS Mentioned in Field Name - Research Strategy n/a
NASA Potential Post Application Not specified
NIH Research Plan 12 pages
NSF Commercial Opportunity 2-4 pages

Proposal evaluation checklist

This section gives a general overview of the three evaluation criteria that reviewers look at when selecting a winning proposal.

  1. Pre-screening/administrative review
  2. Technical review
  3. Commercial potential

Pre-screening/administrative review

  • Is it responsive to a specific topic in agency’s current solicitation?
  • Is it compliance with agency’s proposal requirements?

Proposals for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs must be submitted in response to a funding solicitation from a particular agency. Agency solicitations provide the rules and guidance on how to prepare a response and will include the proposal preparation instructions, application and submission guidance, and evaluation criteria. evaluators will only assess the proposal under the specific subtopic that was selected by the small business, correct proposal and subtopic match is important to move to the next level of evaluation.

View open topics

Technical review

  • Does the proposed work plan fulfill the requirements of the SBIR subtopic?
  • Is the proposed approach relevant to the commercial objectives of the subtopic?
  • Have you outlined the risks, risk mitigation strategy and the anticipated benefits?
  • Is the proposed work consistent with the agencies’ needs?
  • Are the small business, partners and research team staff qualified to conduct the proposed work?
  • Is the proposed R&D scientifically sound and technically feasible?

The specific approaches, objectives and aims for demonstrating the innovation must clearly meet the agency’s needs and demonstrate a clear understanding of the problem as well as the current state of the art. Technological risks should not be ignored, any identified risks should include a risk mitigation plan and strategy. Proposals are reviewed for technical merit, team capability, and ability to address the agency topic and or subtopic.

Commercialization potential

  • Have you clearly defined the market potential and commercial impact of a proposed product?
  • Have you outlined proposed and existing commercial partners and included letters of support and/or commitment?
  • Have you defined your Total Addressable Market (TAM), identified key competition & outlined your business model?

The SBIR/STTR programs aim to transform novel innovations into products and services with high commercial impact and potential. Proposals are assessed on the ability of the small business to generate commercial outcomes based on the proposed activities and bring the innovation closer to the market.